Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 AUS OPEN: Men's Final Preview

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [2] vs. Andy Murray (GBR) [3]
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were born exactly a week apart from each other in 1987 and have faced each other 17 times on the ATP tour, with the younger player currently leading 10-7 in their career head-to-head.

The two have met in 2 major finals so far, with Djokovic winning the 2011 Australian Open in straight sets and Murray winning the 2012 U.S. Open in 5 sets. The two have only met one other time in a major and that was their thrilling 2012 Australian Open semifinal won by Djokovic 7-5 in the 5th set which was one of the best matches of the year.

Here is my prediction for the 2013 Australian Open men's final. I correctly predicted the winner of the men's final last year. I previously correctly predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals and 2 of 2 men's semifinals this year. On the women's side of the draw, I correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 1 of 2 women's semifinals this year. This year I incorrectly predicted the winner of the women's final.

How They Got Here
A. Murray (GBR) [3] d. R. Federer (SUI) [2] 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2. Murray had never beaten Federer at a major tournament despite meeting in three major finals (2008 US Open, 2010 Australian Open and 2012 Wimbledon). However, in the 2013 Australian Open semifinal the Briton came in to the match having not dropped a set while Federer had survived a tough 5-set test against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray looked like he had the match wrapped up in the 4th set when he served for it at 6-5 but he was broken and then played a horrendous tiebreak which lead to a 5th set. Surprisingly, Federer completely faded relatively early in the deciding set and Murray quickly garnered an insurmountable lead and won the match.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [2] d. D. Ferrer (ESP) [4] 6-2 6-2 6-1David Ferrer is known as "The Beast" and "Iron Man" for his stamina and off-court regimen which has led to him optimizing the amount of power and tennis talent capable of emerging from his diminutive frame. The fact that Djokovic was able to demolish such a respected player who has been a fixture in the Top 5 for years in just 89 minutes is nothing less than astonishing. The Serb played absolutely other-worldly tennis, probably his best performance of the tournament.

Who Will Win
It is a very hard call to pick who will win the match. Since this is sports, the unexpected can always happen. Who would have thought that Li Na would turn her ankle and fall twice in the women's final despite almost never having done so in a professional match before? There are multiple dimensions to the contest on a tennis court, the primary being the mental and the physical. (And the two can be related and interrelated of course.)

Mentally, I would have to give a very slight edge to Djokovic. He survived a nearly 6 hours match against Rafael Nadal in the final last year and has beaten his current opponent just two years ago at this very same stage, so the Serb's confidence must be high and he believes that he can win this match. Murray knows that it is definitely possible that he can win this match as well, since he beat Djokovic in a tough 5-set match under very tough, windy conditions in New York a mere four months ago.

Physically, I can not really distinguish the two. Djokovic has the better groundstrokes (backhand and forehand) and movement around the court, but Murray has faster speed, a stronger serve, and a better service return. But Djokovic has slightly more stamina (as far as we know so far).

Who wants to win it more? Most definitely Murray wants it more than Djokovic at this point since the Brit only has one major while the World #1 has won four of the last 8 majors played and has a total of 5 majors so far in his career. Murray has been more efficient in his play throughout the tournament but Djokovic has the tougher competition even though he didn't have to face Federer.

If Djokovic plays the same level of tennis he exhibited against Ferrer he could win in straight sets again, but if he plays the tennis he has played throughout the championship and so does Murray then we could have another instant classic on par with last year's final with the winner being anyone's guess. Interestingly, Federer gives Djokovic the slight edge to win the title, but this may be sour grapes for his loss to Murray, since he was visibly upset and caught on tape swearing repeatedly during his semifinal loss. Federer's reasoning is that Djokovic has had an extra day of rest and he had a straight sets semifinal win while Murray had a 5-set win. But last year, Djokovic had a 5-set win in the semifinals over Murray while Nadal had a 4-set win over Federer and Djokovic was still able to win. But that was more because Djokovic is simply the better hard court player. At this point I think Djokovic is still slightly the better hard court player (51% to 49%) but that doesn't mean he will win the match.

What I do know is that I feel very lucky that we have two players entering the primes of their tennis careers while two of the greatest ever (Federer and Nadal) are still relevant and competitive. Regardless of who wins this particular major, the four will be exchanging wins and losses relatively evenly for the next 12-18 months at least.

Mad Professah's pick: Djokovic in 3 or 4 sets OR Murray in 5 sets.

1 comment:

Rahul said...

Wow! First man in the Open era to win 3 Australian Open titles in a row? The good thing for Djokovic if Murray has a great shot he begins by clapping his racquet strings to show his appreciation. Well done & Congratulations!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin